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Prime Minister’s remarks updating Canadians on COVID-19 variants, vaccines, and border measures

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Good morning everyone.

Before I get started, special thoughts this weekend to an incredible mayor, Hazel McCallion. She’s a force of nature and she’ll be celebrating her 100th birthday this weekend.

Hazel, you have served your community for decades.

It’s no surprise you’ll be celebrating your 100th by supporting Trillium Health.

Happy birthday dear friend, and thank you for everything you’ve done and everything you continue to do.

I know that for many people it will not be possible to spend time in person with their loved ones on the weekend for Valentine’s Day.

The situation we’re going through right now isn’t easy, but it won’t last forever. We’ve come a long way, and we need to hang in there to get through it together for a little while longer.

There is hope on the horizon and we must not give up.

And today I would like to start with an update on vaccines.

A few weeks ago, I talked with Global CEO of Pfizer, Dr. Albert Bourla.

Between that conversation and the excellent work done by Minister Anand, we have some updates to share today.

We’ve received an updated delivery schedule from Pfizer that brings us to the end of March. We can confirm we will be receiving the 4 million doses we’ve been committed to since last November from Pfizer by the end of that month.

We will share this schedule with provinces and territories, so they can prepare to get all those doses into people’s arms.

For the months following from Pfizer, we will be getting the next doses sooner.

We’ve brought forward millions of doses into Q2 so that we will receive 10.8 million doses of Pfizer between April and June.

And all of our remaining doses of Pfizer in Q3, before the end of September, that is we will have received 40 million doses from Pfizer by the end of September.

That’s part of the reason why we can say with such confidence that everyone who wants a vaccine, in Canada, will get one by the end of September.

We’ve been continuing to work every single day on getting as many doses as possible, as quickly as possible, into Canadians’ arms.

On top of this news on Pfizer, I can also share today that we’ve purchased 4 million additional doses of the Moderna vaccine.

These doses, which will arrive over the summer, are in addition to the 40 million doses we expect to receive from Moderna this year.

Every dose of vaccine helps protect the people we love and helps us get through this crisis. 

I know you’re wondering when your doses are coming.

Things are moving forward, and your vaccines are coming.

In total, Canada will have 84 million doses of the two currently approved vaccines available by the end of September. So any doses from AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson or others that may be approved in the coming months would be on top of that, but that’s 84 million doses of the two approved vaccines confirmed by the end of September.

That’s why we can say with such confidence that everyone who wants a vaccine here in Canada will get one by the end of September.

Just like vaccines, I know that border measures are also on a lot of people’s minds.

Recently I had a great chat with Annette from Ottawa.

She had written to me about people vacationing abroad and, as she put it, “ignoring rules that had been in place for quite some time.”

Annette, today, I want to tell you what else we’re going to be doing about this.

We have already worked with the country’s major airlines to suspend service to sun destinations.

Once again, I want to thank them for their leadership on this issue.

As I said before, we will be there for them and their workers so that international travel can safely resume as soon as conditions improve.

In addition to suspending flights to sun destinations, international flights are now arriving at only four major Canadian airports.

And no matter the flight, everyone must have proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of boarding.

Starting Monday, people returning by land borders will also need to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before arrival.

And all returning travellers must quarantine for 14 days after coming home, or risk heavy fines and possible jail time.

These are some of the strongest border measures in the world.

But with new variants emerging, we’re stepping them up even further.  

Later today, Ministers Hajdu, Blair, and LeBlanc will announce the details of new testing, quarantine, and enforcement for everyone flying or driving back to Canada.

These measures will take effect starting February 22.  

Putting these additional measures in place is a true team effort.

To Canadian airlines and border agents – thank you.

To public health employees, to hotel workers, and owners – thank you for all the work you’re doing and for doing your part.

The purpose of these measures is to ensure that people are safe.

Obviously, there are going to be exceptions for essential travel, such as for truck drivers and health care workers.

Otherwise, people should simply not travel.

We will not allow the irresponsible decisions of a few to put the lives of everybody else at risk.

We will do everything we can to protect people and keep this virus under control. 

These border measures will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and new variants.

And that’s not all we’re doing on that front.

We’re also investing $53 million for an integrated Variants of Concern Strategy to help monitor variants like the ones first detected in the UK and South Africa.

You might be worried about these new strains.

Well we’re putting our best experts on it – researchers, epidemiologists, modellers.

With investments like this, Canada is ready to detect, track, and treat new cases.

I know you’re probably watching the news these days attentively, as everyone is, and watching the positive sign of the cases going down across the country. That is a good step in the right direction, but we also know at the same time the new variants that are more communicable, more easily transmitted, are increasingly out there.

So we need to stay careful.

You are doing a great job, making the sacrifices necessary that have shown us on the right track.

But we’re going to need to stay vigilant. We’re going to need to be careful if we’re going to make it through this spring in the best possible way to be able to enjoy a better future for all.

Because nobody wants a third wave to start, particularly not one comprised of new, more communicable variants that can cause real challenges.

Today, I also want to talk about what we’re doing to support everyone – no matter who you are – during this global crisis.

In the last year, we’ve seen once again how tough times fall first and hardest on the most vulnerable.

The legacy of this pandemic must not be some people getting ahead while others fall behind.

Instead, it must be a stronger, fairer Canada for everyone.

And that includes women and girls.

Already, we’ve invested in everything from safe places for women and girls to stay, to moving forward on an action plan for women in the economy.

And we’re not stopping there. 

As Minister Monsef announced yesterday, we’re launching Feminist Response and Recovery funding.

This will support organizations that work to end violence against women and girls, that invest in their economic security, and that empower women leaders. 

No one should have to face this crisis alone.

Investments have already been made in supports for people working in some of the hardest hit industries, such as travel and the performing arts.

In September, we announced a compensation fund for film sets during the pandemic.

Since its inception, thousands of jobs have been saved in the film and television industries.

And this week, Minister Guilbeault announced that the fund will be extended into next year, until March 31, 2022.

No matter who you are, we will ensure you get the support you need.

That’s why we launched the CERB last March.

And that’s why we created the Canada Recovery Benefit and extended the wage subsidy.

We are ready to provide you with the support you need, for as long as it takes.

Better days are ahead of us.

On that note, I want to end this morning by wishing everyone a happy Lunar New Year, particularly to those from East-Asian communities.

The Year of the Ox is particularly apropos for this particular time we’re in as it’s about hard work, perseverance, and trustworthiness.

I think that’s exactly what’s going to get us through the coming months.

Instead of lion dances and fireworks, this year you might be celebrating by delivering PPE to frontline workers or dropping off groceries to elderly neighbours.

Every day, you remind us that diversity is our strength.

And it’s something that we will always defend.

There’s no place in this country for hate or racism.

We will always stand against anti-Asian racism, and against all forms of racism and discrimination.

We are stronger together.

Today, and always.

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone!